In the midst of working on college baseball previews Monday afternoon, my editor messaged me about Curt Gowdy's passing.
At that instant, my mind wandered back to days gone by. Of my youth in Boston suburbs and hearing Gowdy's distinctive nasally voice describing the 1967 World Series, Boston's Impossible Dream season that came two seasons after his 15-year stint as the Red Sox broadcaster.
And of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, when my family watched the Red Sox beat the Reds in 12 innings on television with the sound turned down so we could hear Gowdy on the radio.
Long before cable television, multi-million dollar salaries and media smothering locker rooms in search of the next scandal; long before internet access to games from anywhere in the world there was just another kid growing up in Boston tuning into Red Sox broadcasts.
Gowdy, who lost a battle to leukemia on Monday at 86, ranks among legendary sportscasters Mel Allen, Harry Caray, Dick Enberg, and the like. His resume is as distinct as his voice, a list that includes 16 World Series, nine Super Bowls, eight Olympics and 24 NCAA Final Fours.
With all due respect to his football and basketball broadcasts, not to mention time spent hosting The American Sportsman television show, to me he was a baseball man. Long after his stint as the voice of the Red Sox, I relished his storytelling on NBC's Game of the Week. That and Allen's This Week in Baseball rank first and second among sports broadcasts I have witnessed.
Though I cannot recall his exact words, I can still hear the mounting excitement in Gowdy's voice when Pudge Fisk (Carlton to those not from Red Sox Nation) wrapped a home run ball around the leftfield pole atop the Green Monster to give Boston a 7-6 win in the 12th inning of Game 6 in the '75 Series.
To me, Curt Gowdy was the greatest play-by-play man I've ever heard. Bar none.
I chuckled at the recollections of Gowdy plugging Naragansett beer on Red Sox broadcasts, marvel how he bridged a gap between the most storied rivalry in all of sports by leaving the Red Sox to unite with former New York Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek on the Game of the Week. Who else but that pair could have pulled it off - a Red Sox and Yankee in the same booth who not only got along, but respected and admired one another?
Then there's Ted Williams. I never heard it, but I have seen the videos of Gowdy calling the last at-bat for the Splendid Splinter. Before that historic home run, only Gowdy, Williams and clubhouse attendant Johnny Orlando knew it was Ted's last plate appearance.
It is hardly surprising Gowdy considered Williams a close friend when the man some consider the greatest hitter scorned most media members. Gowdy was at Fenway Park for a 2002 tribute to Williams and he often hunted and fished with the man who spent his final days in Inverness and was an avid outdoorsman.
Unlike Williams, Gowdy got to see the Red Sox win a World Series. Soon, he'll probably be in heaven somewhere fishing with Williams, recounting Boston's wins over the hated Yankees for the American League pennant and World Series sweep of the Cardinals.
The 'Gansetts will flow, the fish will bite and pitch-by-pitch will be discussed. Then, as Gowdy closed Red Sox broadcasts long ago, the sportsmen will be "rounding third and heading home."